i wish to know the best training practices for referees and how to best judge whether in line with the last but one defender

USSF answer (August 17, 2009):
Think of referee training as similar to the musician who wants to get to Carnegie Hall — practice, practice, practice.  The best practice is “guided” and so the answer is to hook up with an experienced, reliable referee who can provide quick feedback.

A brief guide can be found in the U. S. Soccer Federation’s “Guide to Procedures for Referees, Assistant Referees, and Fourth Officials.” This book is available from the U. S. Soccer Shop or from your state referee authorities.…


My question pertains to a proper re-start, specifically who the referee is suppose to respond to when determining whether or not to utilize a second whistle.

I’m confused on this point and apparently there are 2 different interpretations, according to the Guide to Procedures and USSF classroom instruction provided last month. The 2009-10 Laws of the Game does not address this specific question, but simply states (p.29), “If, when a free kick is taken, an opponent is closer to the ball than the required distance: the kick is retaken.” According to the 2009-10 Guide to Procedures (p.28), the referee should “allow a quick free kick, without the necessity of a second signal, except where the kicker indicates a need.” During my USSF refresher, I asked this question to the instructor and he indicated that anyone from the kicking team can ask for the required distance and as a referee you are obligated to provide a second whistle at that point (if the defenders are indeed clearly less than the required distance to the ball).

In being in and around the game for over 35 years, as a fan, player, coach, and the last 10 years, as a referee, my understanding and according to the Guide to Procedures, that only the kicker can create the need for a second whistle. Is it basically being up the referees’ discretion? Or is it that anyone can ask for the required distance (a teammate on and/or off the field, coaching staff, or spectators) and be granted with a second whistle?

USSF answer (August 11, 2009):
We see no conflict here; provided the referee is satisfied the request is in the best interests of the kicking team, it makes no difference who on that team requests it. There is often confusion in any case as to who will take the kick, so the specific reference to “the kicker” can include any member of that team. However, the referee pays no attention to anyone OTHER than a player of the attacking team (no coaches, substitutes, spectators, color commentators, etc.).…



I am wondering about center referee mechanics for throw-in. I am getting feedback from referees that they have heard instructors tell them center referees should signal a throw-in with a 90 degree arm signal, rather than the 45 degree arm signal. They are being told to watch the MLS referees. Is this a change to referee mechanics?

USSF answer (July 22, 2009):
When in doubt, follow the instructions in the Guide to Procedures.  The referee “Points 45 degrees upward to indicate direction of throw-in.”…



As an AYSO Intermediate Ref, currently working on my Advanced Badge, I was reviewing your Guide to Proceedures.  Under the kick off section, on page 9, you indicate “…starts watch and signals for the kickoff to be taken”.  Is this really correct?  Law 8 states, and a prior instructor had taught me, that the game starts only once the kick off has been taken.  I was originally instructed that you don’t start your watch until the ball moves, as this indicates the start of the game.  Should the USSF Guide To Proceedures actually state “Signal for the kickoff to be taken; once taken, start watch”, or is your current Guide correct to indicate start the watch first?

Please advise,

USSF answer (July 17, 2009):
While we formerly taught that the referee should wait to start the watch until the ball had actually been put in play, we have found that this distracts the referee from watching all that goes on at the actual first kick in the kick-off process.  Therefore, we recommend that referees start their watch and then blow the whistle.  The referee is thus more assured of seeing everything that occurs as the ball is put into play.

If you are worried about the proper amount of time, you can always add that particular second to the time to be added at the end of the period.  Although many referees are encouraged NOT to add time by the rules of competition or by their own mistaken ideas, no game in the world has ever finished without the need for some amount of added time.  Time is lost for numerous reasons throughout each period of play.…


Please clarify the new signal for the AR. As I understand it, the AR is to Hold the flag in both hands parallel with the ground if a foul is called by the referee and the referee is looking to the AR for guidance rather it occurred inside the penalty area or outside. If inside, the flag as mentioned above, if outside the flag down at the AR’s side.

If the AR calls the foul (inside the penalty area) the AR should raise the flag, give it a wave, then walk to the corner flag while making eye contact with the referee.

I was recently told that this was no longer the case, the AR would signal for the foul, then bring the flag down parallel to the ground as mentioned above.

USSF answer (July 9, 2009):
When the referee has signaled a direct free kick foul and makes obvious eye contact with the assistant referee for advice on whether the offense occurred inside the penalty area, the assistant referee’s signal to indicate that the offense was inside the penalty area is to display the flag across the lower body.  The same signal is also used when the AR has indicated a direct free kick foul committed by a defender inside the defender’s penalty area. In a change from last year, the AR should insert the new flag signal (display the flag across the lower body) after waggling the flag to indicate the foul and before beginning to move down toward the goal line to take the position for the recommended penalty kick.

In addition, the responsibilities of the lead assistant referee for the taking of a penalty kick (as well as for kicks from the penalty mark to break a tie) will now clearly include assisting the referee in determining if a goal has been scored and for indicating if the goalkeeper has moved illegally AND IT MADE A DIFFERENCE. The signal to indicate this is the same as the signal described in the previous paragraph. Referees must be sure to discuss these changes regarding penalty kick and kicks from the mark situations in their pregame and to be very clear about the circumstances in which the signal for goalkeeper movement should be given.

This information will be included in the 2009/2010 edition of the Guide to Procedures for Referees, Assistant Referees and Fourth Officials.…


Your answers to questions frequently illuminate topics that should be discussed in the referee team’s pregame conference. Yet I have a difficult time remembering all of the various topics that should be addressed in pregame. I have searched but have been unsuccessful in finding a quide or outline for the pregame conference.

What are the topics that the referee A) must discuss, B)should discuss, and C) might discuss with his assistants in the pregame conference. I imagine that the topics in categories B and C will likely depend upon the experience of the referee team, age level and competition level of the match, among other factors.

USSF answer (June 5, 2009):
Your imagination is working well. As leader of the officiating team, the referee must establish during the pregame conference how the team will work and cooperate. The referee (depending on his or her own level of experience) should tailor the pregame to fit the composition of the refereeing crew, including their likely varying levels of knowledge and fitness; the age, competition, and skill levels of the players; and the particular requirements of the competition itself. It is often useful for the referee to develop a checklist for topics to be covered in the pregame conference. The amount of detail would be tailored to the needs (see above) of the referee, the assistant referees (ARs), and the fourth official. First and foremost, the referee must ensure that the ARs (and a fourth official) are familiar with the guidelines and mechanics laid out in the USSF publication “Guide to Procedures for Referees, Assistant Referees and Fourth Officials.”

For starters, when working with unfamiliar crew members, the very first task (after introductions) is to ask questions which (gently) elicit information about these issues — e.g., How long officiating? Grade level? Most frequent level of assignment? Club/league/association? Entry class instructor (if within first or second year of experience)? This will help the referee tailor the pregame to the needs of the team.

Ideal topics for the checklist would include the duties of the AR, signals of the AR (including NOT signaling when the referee can clearly see the incident), what to do when AR signals are missed by the referee (such as when and how long to maintain the flag); duties of the fourth official (if one is assigned); differences between the rules of the competition and the Laws of the Game, if any; what the ARs should do in situations that are not covered by the Laws of the Game, such as unofficial signals or when the AR may/should enter the field; duties at a penalty kick; a reminder to communicate at all possible moments (such as a quick look exchanged between the referee and the lead AR on all through balls or at stoppages in play. Likely the most important item is a reminder to the ARs and the fourth to immediately alert the referee to any mistakes in procedure, such as having cautioned a player a second time but failed to send that player off.

Finally, the referee should encourage the ARs (and a possible fourth official) to ask questions during the pregame conference, just to ensure that they have understood what has been discussed and what they are to do.…


There is a question and answer provided on the USSF website which asks, and then confirms, that in the event of a throw-in in the area of the AR, the referee does not need to signal if the AR’s signal is correct. However, this reminded me of a situation that was brought up in the Recertification Class I just recently took. In the example given, the AR raised the flag for offsides, but was waved down by the Referee a few seconds later, because the keeper ended up getting the ball. However, as the AR was in the act of lowering his flag, the keeper dropped the ball to the ground, assuming it was offsides, and the opposing attacker ran in and took the ball and scored. The correct answer in this situation, we were told, is that the goal should stand, since the AR does not actually have the authority to make calls, and since the referee had not called the offsides, the game was officially still in progress when the keeper dropped the ball. They also told us that the keeper should be clearly instructed not to pay attention to any calls made by the AR unless the referee has called them.

However, this seems to contradict the answer given in this question. In the example given in the question of a throw-in, the referee makes no signal or acknowledgement that the ball is out of play, and the only figure signaling the proper restart is the AR. This seems to imply that signals given by the AR CAN be considered valid, even with no signal from the referee. Telling players to follow signals given by the AR in some cases, but ignore them in other cases, is quite confusing and could easily and understandably result in an example such as the one I have provided.

So, what is the proper decision? Should the referee signal for all restarts of play, or should the players be conditioned to follow the signals given by the AR, potentially resulting in situations that could significantly affect the outcome of the game?

USSF answer (March 31, 2009):
Perhaps you have misread our answer of 24 March 2009.  It is not simply a case of the referee not needing to signal at those times when the assistant referee is right, but of the referee NOT NEEDING TO SIGNAL UNLESS A SIGNAL IS NEEDED.  The controlling source here is the Guide to Procedures, which clearly states that the referee does not need to signal when the ball has left the field where the AR is expected to give the signal “unless necessary” — which makes the real question, “When might it be necessary?”  It might be necessary if the AR is incorrect (the referee saw a touch on the ball which the AR did not or could not see); the players are continuing to play the ball despite the signal by the AR; the players acknowledge that the ball left the field, but are disputing the AR’s signal as to which team has possession, etc.  All referees should note that, technically under the Law, the players are required to stop playing the ball when it leaves the field and this does not take any signal by the AR or referee (yet we often hear coaches, somewhat cynically, tell their players to keep playing the ball until there is a signal, even when they know absolutely that the ball has left the field.  The AR’s signal merely confirms a fact — it does not create it.

With regard to the offside situation, let us remind you of the old saying: “The Laws of the Game are not intended to compensate for the mistakes of players.”  The ball leaving the field is a physical fact (see above) whereas offside, fouls, etc. are pure judgment calls, which is why it takes the referee’s signal to actually create the conditions for a stoppage.  Here, the referee DID signal — he waved down the AR’s flag — which every player should have taken to mean that the AR’s prior signal is to be ignored.  The fact that the goalkeeper failed to understand this is the goalkeeper’s problem, not a problem in mechanics.…


In the July 2008 edition of the Guide to Procedures, page 18 includes (under the heading “Throw in – Assistant Referee’s End Of Touch Line”) the following guidance for the referee:
o Points in direction of throw-in only if assistant referee signal needs to be corrected due to unseen contact with the ball

I was under the impression that Law 5, in stating that the referee “indicates the restart of the match after it has been stopped,” requires that the referee signal EVERY restart of play. While only seeing one signal (from the AR) is greatly preferred to seeing conflicting signals from the AR and referee, it has still been my habit to echo throw-in signals by the AR when it is “his/her call”, as well as that my arm often seems to be more in the players’ field of view than the AR’s flag. I have also found it a very useful dictum, when instructing new referees, that they are required to signal every restart.

Am I missing something here?

USSF answer (March 24, 2009):
The Guide to Procedures, in various locations, calls upon the referee to signal only “when necessary” because often the signal by the assistant referee and its acceptance by the referee are sufficient.  When it is necessary, for example, to confirm an AR signal that is being disputed by the players or to change an AR signal due to the referee having additional critical information, the referee may need to signal as well.  It is also important to remember that the requirement in Law 5 that the referee “indicates the restart” clearly supports the proposition that the throw-in can be taken — unless the referee has a further reason to delay the restart, in which case the restart is ceremonial and requires a whistle.

Furthermore, the soccer community, both internationally and here in the US, has increasingly emphasized the role of the assistant referee as a fully functioning member of the officiating team. Just to make it doubly clear: This means that when the AR has signaled in accordance with the guidelines discussed in the pregame and the referee has no reason to do anything other than what the AR advises, no further action is needed by the referee (unless the restart must be held up for a substitution, card, injury, etc., in which case the referee must whistle to restart play).…


I was a AR at a recent game and a situation occured where the ball was floating aorund the goal line and the keeper was trying to grab it before it rolled across.

I saw it roll across the goal and then he grabbed it and brought it back onto the field of play.

It was my impression that to signal a goal a AR should sprint back toward midfield as a signal of a goal but since it was not obvious as the ball was floating around there seemed to be some confusion.

The center referee while watching me run back was motioning to me asking if it was a goal or not.

Half way up the line I just stopped and screamed out it was a goal.

Was there some other signal I should have given him other then the sprint up the line or was this correct?

USSF answer (March 18, 2009):
We suggest that you follow the instructions in the USSF publication “Guide to Procedures for Referees, Assistant Referees and Fourth Officials, designed specifically for the assistant referee to use in this situation:

If the ball briefly but fully enters the goal and is continuing to be played, raises the flag vertically to get the referee’s attention and then, after the referee stops play, puts flag straight down and follows the remaining procedures for a goal.


I was an AR in a U19 match this week. The ball was in play near the endline, inside the 6-yard area. I judged a player to have been offside, about a yard off the endline, very shortly before the ball went out of play. I raised my flag to vertical, waited for the whistle, then lowered my flag to horizontal — to indicate offside in the middle third of the field. The center referee interpreted my signal as the ball having gone across the endline, off the attacking team, with a goal kick for the restart. The rules of the competition allowed for substitutions, so he turned and motioned them onto the field. From my vantage point, the ball actually was last touched by a defender, so had the offside not ocurred, the restart would have been a corner kick (with substitutions allowed by the rules of the competition). I did a quick evaluation, decided the difference was trifling, and let matters go on (which, at halftime, the center agreed was the best course of action). So, my first question is what should I have done differently as a mechanic to indicate that there was an offside infraction, rather than the ball going out of play? The difference seems trifling, from a practical standpoint, with the difference being a direct restart with no possibility of the now attacking team being offside direct from the kick, versus an IFK. And my second question is whether I’m missing anything in the nature of the restart — is this, for practical purposes, a trifling difference, not to be worried about?


USSF answer (March 15, 2009):
The referee made the first error in this scenario.  The signal you gave was proper and should not have been interpreted as indicating a goal kick restart.  If that had been the case, you would have been pointing the flag straight out when you and the referee made eye contact instead of being (as was the case here) held straight upward and followed by being held straight out.  The only way your signal could have been an indication of a goal kick would be if the ball had left the field — unnoticed by the referee but seen by you — and returned to the field with players still actively playing it as though it had not left the field.

The general guideline, however, is that, given a choice between an offside violation in the area you indicated and a goal kick, FIFA and USSF both recommend going with the goal kick.  The restarts in both cases are, for all practical purposes, equivalent and the latter occasions less need for explanation and is more readily accepted.  This is not the case in your scenario where, if the indication for offside were not accepted, the restart would have been a corner kick instead of a goal kick.  Here, the offside violation must be called.  Since the referee misinterpreted your signal, it is incumbent upon you to make the misunderstanding known to the referee.  

The argument that the goal kick is similar to the IFK restart for the offside cannot be accepted because the choice was not between offside and a goal kick, it was between offside and a corner kick.  Furthermore, the offside restart would possibly not have allowed for substitutions whereas the goal kick restart did.…